By Steve Moran
I caught up with Chris Guay by phone this morning and we spent some time chatting about his adventure evacuating Vitality Court, their assisted living memory care community in Victoria, Texas. It is a fascinating tale of courage and the very best of Senior Living and humanity. Until Thursday, the 24th of August, the team at Vitality Court were being told things were going to be okay and they would not need to evacuate. Then Friday morning it went from all okay to a mandatory evacuation.
They started reaching out to their evacuation plan partners and discovered space was tight or nonexistent.
Silverado Saves the Day
They had 27 memory care residents who had a special set of needs. He started calling around and reached Loren Shook, the CEO of Silverado. Silverado Cedar Park was a recent acquisition and they had a whole unoccupied unit. There was no hesitation, no talk of money, a contract or anything except . . . we know you have a need come-on over.
The Silverado staff was amazing, providing all the support they needed, including bringing in a massage therapist for the Vitality staff.
So Many Heros . . .
The assisted living residents went to Homewood Suites Riverwalk in San Antonio where they were treated like high rollers. The hotel allowed Vitality Court’s chef to commandeer the kitchen. More than half of the staff evacuated with the residents. Many of those team members left homes and family members to cope with horrific storm damage.
When Chris made his first trip back to the community to assess the damage, they had two team members with one request: “Our families are running low on food, can you help them?” They did.
I am sure more lessons will come out of it, but here are some of the initial lessons:
No matter how well you plan, things will go wrong.
Even though you think you have contingency plans that are adequate, you need to have contingency plans for your contingency plans.
You cannot over plan for these things.
Trust your people, they will amaze you.
You need to do serious practice. It is common to do fire drills, if there is any chance that you will ever have to evacuate your community your staff needs to know exactly what to do. It needs to be practiced and rehearsed (without actually making residents evacuate).
Communication with families is a big issue. You can make only so many phone calls. What they did was update their Facebook page on a very regular basis. Those updates included status reports plus lots and lots of photos of what the residents were doing on their forced field trip.
The Best Team Building Exercise
Not that Chris or anyone would suggest an evacuation as a way to build a bonded team, it had that effect. It will be a part of their shared experience, their shared story for as long as they work for Vitality Court. It will surely make the team function even better.
The community suffered significant damage on the grounds and the exterior. There were about a dozen units that were/are uninhabitable and some residents have agreed to temporarily share their unit in order to get everyone home. On Saturday, all of the residents were once again home.
I am sure there will be more stories, some like this and likely some tragic, but this renews my faith in the leaders and frontline staff in this wonderful industry.